Elkhart Community Schools asks for your help. During the referendum campaign in the spring of 2019 and in conversations with the new superintendent since his arrival in January, many people in Elkhart and Bristol both within the school community and outside the school walls have suggested ways to make Elkhart Schools better. Dr. Thalheimer and the school board of trustees adopted a communication plan for the fall of 2019 in order to be sure those voices are heard.
The initiative is called “Educating Right”.
In the most important sense, we want to do right by our students and families. We want to live up to the Elkhart Promise of knowing every student by name, challenging and supporting them with highly effective staff, and working in partnership with the community. We want to find ways to attract and retain students and provide those students with diverse, quality learning experiences.
Secondly, we want to be sure we are right-sizing the district in terms of facilities and staff given our student population and demographics. We want to build understanding regarding possible cost-cutting measures. We want to explore ideas emerging from within the school community and the public at large. And we want to analyze the impact of and community consensus around these ideas.
Our goal is to engage all stakeholders– parents/guardians, students, community members, local business & industry, and school personnel– in a transparent process of the district truly listening and vetting ideas.
How will the district carry out this initiative?
The district will utilize Thoughtexchange, a social media-like app, to collect ideas from the community. Through a series of public meetings, Dr. Thalheimer will share with the community what the district has been doing to reduce costs and improve instruction, will update stakeholders about the merger, and then ask for help in collecting ideas in the Thoughtexchange.
Direct link to the ECS Thought Exchange: https://my.thoughtexchange.com/#982845552
How does Thoughtexchange work?
Thoughtexchange is an app that provides you an opportunity to explain an idea you have and why you think it is a good idea. At ECS THOUGHT EXCHANGE you will be asked in 300 characters or less to share ideas for fiscal responsibility and for attracting and retaining students. You will enter your ideas into a speech bubble without any name, screen name, or avatar; the ideas will be totally anonymous and stand on their own. The Thoughtexchange will ask for some general demographic information in order to analyze the collective consensus by various groups. All participation is anonymous. After entering ideas and support for the ideas, then you move to the next screen where you have the ability to rank the ideas presented by others on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Ideas you like receive 4 or 5 stars while ideas that don’t really speak to you would receive 1 or 2 stars. Once you have rated thoughts, then you can see a summary of all the thoughts that have received ratings and how they are stacking up.
What is the timeline for this community conversation?
During the months of September and October, Thalheimer will visit every school building to present to staff and seek their input through an exchange. School staff will be invited to engage in an internal exchange of ideas for school personnel, but they are also invited to take part in the public exchange.
During October, Thalheimer will conduct four public meetings across the district updating the community on fiscal status and cost-cutting measures, addressing district priorities for the year, and seeking input via an external, public Thoughtexchange. Additionally, we want to allow groups or individuals to propose ideas with a template that summarizes their ideas. We have created a Google Document template that we ask people to make a copy of, fill out, and submit for consideration. As the exchanges move along, the school board may invite people who have proposed ideas in the form to attend a board work session where they can explain their idea more fully to inform their decision making.
After each one of the school and public meetings, the community will be encouraged to revisit the exchanges to see what their neighbors have said and to star the ideas that have been added. The Thoughtexchanges will close on October 31.
When are the public meetings?
- Monday, October 7 at 6:30pm at St. James AME
- Tuesday, October 15 at 6:30pm at Bristol Elementary
- Wednesday, October 16 at 6:30pm at Mary Feeser Elementary
- Thursday, October 17 at 6:30pm at West Side Middle School
What if I have an idea to suggest that doesn’t fit into the Thoughtexchange?
The exchange platform is intended to capture ideas and feedback on those ideas briefly and efficiently in 300 characters. If you or a group of people you are associated with have a fully-conceptualized idea that you would like to share, we are providing a Template for Submission of Ideas. The goal of this sheet is to provide an opportunity for people to share with the school board and administration a summary of an idea along with the potential impact of the idea and pros and cons as well as additional considerations that need to be taken into account. The district asks that you fill out the form and provide contact information so that you or your group can be contacted to share your idea in person if the board so chooses. Well-developed ideas presented to the board that they would like to share will be linked through this website.
The following is an example of a completed worksheet for an well-developed idea for board consideration: Dual Language Immersion
What will be done with the ideas generated?
Ideas generated through the Thoughtexchange will be analyzed by the administrative team and shared with the board during the months of November and December. Suggestions submitted by individuals or groups of people through the website idea template will be presented to the board, and the board may ask for these ideas to be presented more formally in a board work session. From the data in the Thoughtexchanges, from presentations, and from administrative recommendations, the board will then determine which final ideas to act upon. The board will vote on the direction to give the superintendent and leadership team, who will then develop an action plan for carrying out those ideas.